The last is a bit tongue in cheek.
How's this for a bit of metafiction. Captain Jack Absolute, creation of 18th century playwright Richard Sheridan, pulled from the pages of a play called The Rivals and plunked into the pages of a historical novel. Then, in the pages of the novel he becomes the subject of a fictional Richard Sheridan who decides to write a play about his swashbuckling and enviable adventures. And within the same story plays himself on stage. It's all very larger than life and if you have an opportunity to "meet" Captain Absolute you'll realize just how fitting and to character all this is!
Author C.C. Humphreys knows well of which he writes as he has himself played Jack Absolute on stage. As a matter of fact he began his career as an actor and playwright and unsurprisingly such a vivid and colorful character as Jack Absolute (and isn't that a marvelous invention of a name?) became his inspiration and prompted him to create a story around the fictional character. Humphreys quite literally brought Jack Absolute to life after living and breathing the character himself. I like the story behind the story almost as much as the story itself.
And I do love a good adventure story, and even more so one that can be described as swashbuckling. Dashing heroes, especially those like Jack who have wit, humor and keen intelligence are rather on the agreeable side, don't you think? Let's see, I can add him to the list. There's Captain Alatriste, Beauvallet, and my all time favorite Horatio Hornblower (an officer and a gentleman). Jack, a well-seasoned soldier, has been out of the game as such for a number of years. He gave up his commission to travel to India and is set to return after conducting business in London when he's asked to take on the task of spy. He'd rather not but falls into it all by accident.
This story has another twist (there are a number of twists in this story as you might imagine). It's 1775 and the Revolutionary War is being fought on the other side of the Atlantic. Jack is a Redcoat, though an enlightened British soldier. His first allegiance is to the Crown but he's not without a few sympathies for the Rebels (he gets it from his mother's side who had a streak of the rebellious in her Irish blood). As a younger man he spent many years in Canada and the Hudson Valley among the Iroquois so is well versed in the ways of frontier life.
But let me backtrack just a moment here. Jack would prefer to steer well clear of the War for American Independence. He kindly refuses the offer to be reappointed to his former regiment. Aside from his desire to return to India where he is trying to recoup his fortune he has recently acquired estate in the West Indies that needs attending to. Only a day shy of his departure, however, he gets dragged into a duel and barely misses being caught. Duels being illegal and all but frowned upon it's a friendly bit of blackmail by General John Burgoyne that finally convinces Jack that a journey to the American Colonies might be a good idea after all. It doesn't hurt that aboard the same ship will be the beautiful Miss Louisa Reardon returning to her family in New York, Jack having a fondness for Colonial women.
Jack's expertise and experience is needed not just in leading troops but in his abilities as a spy and his knowledge of the Six Nations of the Iroquois who are, Jack is quick to point out, His Majesty's Native Allies (not Subjects). If the war is to be won, it can only be done with their help, and they will need convincing. Jack considers the Iroquois his brothers and is known to them as Daganoweda. On more than one occasion, as a matter of fact, his life has been saved by Até who travels with him as friend and companion. Midway through the story Jack reflects on the many and varied ways in which his enemies have tried to kill him but have oft been routed by a very calm, always cerebral, Shakespeare-quoting Até.
Jack Absolute is a wholly entertaining romp through the Revolutionary War, at least through the pivotal and bloody Battle of Saratoga. There's a nice balance between swashbuckling adventure (including duels, battles, swordplay, quick escapes, a nasty snake bite and an amorous liaison or two) and historical spy story (complete with stolen missives and lost code breakers, double agents and a secret society of Illuminati with their own hidden agenda) with an entirely different perspective on the War.
Many thanks to Liz at Sourcebooks for sending this one my way. There are two more books featuring Jack Absolute. The Blooding of Jack Absolute, which is a prequel and will be published in the US in November, and Absolute Honour which also takes place before the Revolutionary War.